By Gordon Davis
Bait and switch came to mind as I sat listening last night to the speakers at the City of Worcester’s race dialogue sponsored by the City Manager’s Committee against Bias and Hate. Although billed as a discussion of race and a summary of the notes collected during Worcester’s summertime hearings on race, which were conducted by the Department of Justice, it was only a rah-rah session for Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. He spoke for a long time about the things he has done. Neither the City Manager nor any of the scheduled speakers said a single word about or used the phrase “BlackLives Matter.”
Many in the City are either afraid of or disagree with BlackLives Matters. This is sad, as even the Presidential candidates have spoken to the issues.
City Manager Augustus spoke of the Chief Diversity Officer he has hired, Dr. Malika Carter. She was in the audience and, curiously, not at the speakers’ table.
This is not a good sign, as many Black women in City government have been marginalized and forced out. I wish her good fortune and success.
The City Manager then spoke of the sensitivity training that Worcester police officers have undergone. He did not say anything about transparency of Worcester police policies and misconduct. These remain secret and unavailable for public scrutiny.
The other speakers were from private agencies and non-profit organizations. They all said the right things, and I have to also say that they do good work, given their limited resources and mission statements.
The most interesting and, I think, useful of the non-profits is Community Legal Aid (CLA). It helps people with their civil cases such as housing, unemployment and discrimination. Valerie Zolezzi-Wynham, managing attorney, spoke how CLA diversified its staff and hired an outreach attorney specifically for the Asian community which has not much used CLA’s services. It also hired an Educational Attorney to help students with their cases and “level the playing field.”
Mabel Milner is the chair of the City Manager’s Committee against Bias and Hate. This Committee organized the meeting. Ms. Milner facilitated the meeting. According to the City Manager, her Committee has been enlarged to be more inclusive.
Ms. Milner indicated that Reverend Tally, the minister at the AME ZION Church, heads a subcommittee that reviewed the notes from last summer DOJ hearings.
Rev. Tally apologized for the lateness of the summary and said that the review of the notes was not complete. He pointed out that the raw information could be found on the City of Worcester’s website.
The speaker for the NAACP, Pat Yancy, indicated that it had held a demonstration when a hangman’s noose was seen at the Post Office in the Denholm Building and that it held a support service for the Black church goers killed in South Carolina.
Members of the Progressive Labor Party had passed out flyers with five demands to fight racism in Worcester:
Transparency of Worcester Police policies and misconduct
Stop arresting students at schools
Fully funded Public Schools
Jobs for Worcester residents
End City of Worcester use of police force against BlackLives Matter and the poor
Reverend Tally promised the audience that there will be more discussions like the one last night.
I hope he is wrong.
The meeting was a joke on the people of Worcester.
Like the DOJ hearings during the summer, people who should have attended the meeting boycotted it.
The words that needed to be said were not said.
Leadership is needed in this city. Many people in leadership positions are just misguided or pretending.